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The Poisonous Shaming of ‘Lebanese Liberals’

The Poisonous Shaming of ‘Lebanese Liberals’

Monday, 6 December, 2021 - 11:15

From time to time, there emerge those who shame “Lebanese liberals” (!?) for allying, sympathizing or going along with illiberal forces, both Lebanese and non-Lebanese.

If we were to recall the initial meaning of liberalism, weakening the state and reducing the scope of its role, these “liberals” should work on weakening and shrinking the Lebanese state, and that applies to the economy, the army and the judiciary...

In the actual Lebanese context, this shaming seems farcical. For what is demanded of these “liberals” is that they weaken the state, which is extremely weak in the first place, while the parallel state, which is devastatingly powerful, Hezbollah, grows stronger. According to those mocking them, only thus would they be genuine liberals at peace with their ideas and themselves.

On top of that: these “liberals” should rid themselves of any support for or alliance with non-liberals, whether they are domestic or foreign forces. They must reject the “conflict of axes” on their soil and renounce any ties to factions that had once been armed militias. Isn’t liberalism opposed to militias and weaponry?

Complying with these “innocent” demands means at least two things: first, that the “liberals” forget that there is one axis threatening life in Lebanon today, the Iranian axis and its vassals, given its control over decisions of war and peace and the fact that it is responsible for Lebanon’s isolation, and so the lion’s share of the responsibility for the ongoing catastrophic economic crisis and plummeting living conditions. As for the second, it is that they also forget that the only militia that remains so, a militia that is gaining strength and expanding, is Hezbollah.

Only by complying with these two recommendations does their “liberalism” become commendable and genuine, as it leaves them equivocating between the defunct militias that the Phalangists (Kataeb), Lebanese Forces, Progressive Socialist Party, and Amal Movement had been and the 100,000-man army that the Hezbollah secretary-general told us, or warned us, about recently.

Here, a clarification must be made: the primary criteria for separating friend from foe in Lebanon today is: who is immersing us in war? Whose strategy is based on the assumption of war, if not its inevitability, and operates on the principle of “defending us against our will?”

Naturally, it would be preferable if the forces who do not intend to immerse us in war, the supposed allies of the “liberals,” were supportive of liberty, individualism, gender equality, bridging the gap between classes, anti-racism and other known virtues.

However, if they are not, that does not deprive them of the virtue of combating wars that would ravage the country and its people (and wars, by the way, are liberalism’s staunchest enemy). That is because the most pressing danger today is not the state’s encroachment on citizens’ lives and freedoms, but the parallel state’s encroachment on the state and the vast majority of its citizens. It is precisely here that we find the specter of being dragged into a deadly war without our opinion on the matter being asked after having been dragged into a superficial peace built on totally unequal access to the tools of force.

In truth, liberalism, perhaps with the partial exception of the letters concerning ‘toleration’ written by the “father of liberalism,” John Lock, has not faced circumstances like ours, that is, threats to a country’s existence, besides its sovereignty, and the rise of an armed state stronger than that of the country it arose in, a country whose state is supposedly democratic and represents its people.

Facing such challenges, liberalism neither helps nor impedes. It emerged, in eighteenth-century Europe, from tensions between the state and collective on the one hand and the individual and liberty on the other. What applies to liberalism also applies to all the other modern ideologies when they are faced with genocide or semi-genocidal circumstances: did the rise of Nazism in nineteen-thirties Germany not lead to Moscow and the communists of the world’s adoption of national and popular front theories that left them fighting alongside the “bourgeoisie”, or Stalin’s reconciliation with the Russian church during the Second World War? Didn’t Mao Zedong reconcile with Chiang Kai-shek to face the Japanese occupation?

However, the “ruse” is not complete before we remember that those doing the shaming are not defending liberal purity or orthodoxy. Indeed, they sympathize with Hezbollah and the Wilayat e-Faqih system of governance, and they strive to provide the most suitable terms for them. Every breath they take exudes hatred for liberalism and Lebanon at the same time.

With that, they could see these “liberals” fondly if the latter were to abandon every friendship and sympathy they may have and focus on working to shrink and weaken the Lebanese state!

Such shaming is more of a hypocritical war tactic backed up by a culture that distinguishes between what is permissible to “us,” everything, from combining Bakunin and Khomeini to blending Marx and Khamenei, and what is not permissible to those who are not “us.” They are prohibited from everything. That is because “we” hold the truth, the entire truth, and the weapons, all the weapons, and we leave them with only treachery and slander.

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